This 1955 Blondie cartoon shows how much some things have changed — remember aerials? Or paying five bucks for a service call? — and how much DIY’ers still face the same pitfalls. Well, some are steeper than others …
Category Archives: Retro High Tech
It’s a Wonderful World – Tomorrow!
By Joan O’Sullivan, New York Mirror Magazine Home Editor
New York Mirror Magazine, May 25, 1958
IT MAY NOT BE PLAUSIBLE but anything’s possible in the world of tomorrow. Your most extravagant daydreams will come true because the same science that rockets Sputniks into orbit is conjuring up a multitude of modern miracles that are strictly down to earth, designed to make everyday living easier.
The progress possible in the closing years of our century isn’t nearly so remote as the moon—and man expects to reach that satellite, go on to other planets, within the next few decades.
The Atomic Age is coming home but to houses that will be far different from any we now know.
Some will be plastic and vinyl rubber. A model, made by U.S. Rubber, resembles an igloo. You’ll buy them deflated, then hunt for a foundation over which to inflate them.
When a job transfer occurs, you’ll be able to deflate the house, fold it into a neat parcel and move it to Pittsfield, Plattsburgh or Kalamazoo.
Other dwellings will be constructed of new lighter, stronger steel, now being researched at laboratories of such companies as Sharon Steel. It will revolutionize architecture, give houses new shapes—triangular, semi-spherical, globular.
You won’t run down to the cellar or up to the attic. Both will be eliminated. New storage areas will be found in extra rooms, cheaply available because homes for the average-income family will be mass-produced prefabs. You’ll be able to put up a house in a day, two at most, which is far less time than it now takes merely to find a vacant apartment in the rent-bracket you can afford.
Furnaces? They’ll be outmoded. Solar heating units will keep the new homestead snug and comfy during the Winter. If the sunshine supply runs out, an auxiliary heat pump will go to work during the exceptional spells of snowy, rainy, cloudy weather. Come season, go season, solar heat and air conditioning will maintain an even indoor temperature of 72 degrees and 50 percent humidity. In Phoenix, Ariz., a completely solar-heated house has just been built, architectural proof of what’s to come.
There will be no need for Pop to snow-shovel the driveway in the year 2000. There won’t be one. The family car by then will have given way to a helicopter, which will land on a plastic roof (it will never leak!) automatically heated to shed snow as it falls.
Transportation, which will definitely include atom-powered boats and planes so rapid you’ll be able to commute daily from Paris to a New York office, will likely produces a space-scooter, a sort of second family car. Mom will use it to scoot after groceries or deliver the kids to school. Pop might hop into it and take off for work.
Such transportation is a long way off but within the next few years will come a local travel change. Helicopter commuting will be as common as bus or train trips. New York Airways even now picks up a few commuters from Stamford and Westchester and delivers them to a heliport on the Hudson River at West 30th St. The company expect to enlarge up this service greatly with a fleet of two-motor ‘copters that seat 15. By 1970 and probably even before that, there’ll be numerous commuter runs daily. Intra-city service, such as New York to Philadelphia, will be scheduled soon, too.
Just a Hint of What’s to Come
The interior of the modern house will be heavenly form a homemaker’s viewpoint.
Much furniture will be built-in—the trend is already underway—a boon to apartment-dwellers for whom moving day will be reduced to packing a suitcase and a few odds-and-ends furnishings.
John Van Koert, well-known designer, sees quick color changes possible because walls will be replaced by sliding panels. Sick of one color backdrop? Pull out another.
There will be no special-purpose rooms, says Van Koert, as we know them. Instead, uniformity of decoration through the house will be thin. Bedrooms and dining rooms will be decorated to look like living rooms. When wall panels are pushed back, the entire house will be furnished suitably to make one huge living area, if such is required for large-scale entertaining.
Many current decorating problems will vanish.
You won’t have to wonder about where to put the television, for example. Its working parts will be so small and so flat, says RCA’s David Sarnoff Research Center, the TV will be installed in a picture frame and hung on a wall.
Lamp wires will be non-existent—and lamps may well be, too. Westinghouse has already developed a method of coating glass, metal and plastic with phosphor which produces light. In the future, it’s expected that this process will be used for window shades, drapes, table tops, even ceilings and walls. They’ll all light up, lamp style.
Housekeeping will be a breeze-literally. You’ll wave a wand and dust will vanish. According to Westinghouse experts, the wand will be electrostatic. Like a magnet, it will draw dust from under beds, behind books and form all the remote crevices and corners where it hides out nowadays, stubbornly resisting the efforts of the homemaker’s dust mop or vacuum.
A Brave Look Into the Crystal Ball
WHAT WILL MILADY wear in the years to come? It’s a tough question to answer. Predicting fashion changes from one season to the next stumps most experts right now. Sack or chemise, trapeze-look or sputnik-influence, new clothes will be made from wonder fabrics now being researched in laboratories of such companies as E.I. du Pont and Chemstrand.
What will result from these studies is anyone’s guess but here a few predictions:
1. Marvel elastic fibers that will produce doll-size dresses capable of stretching into sizes from 14 to 40.
2. Plastic frocks that will deflate for storage, inflate for wearing.
3. Spray-on waterproofing that will eliminate galoshes and rain gear.
4. Disposable wear-them-one-and-throw-them-away dresses made of specially treated paper.
5. Air-conditioned fabrics that will cool in Summer, insulate in Winter.
6. Shoes packaged with a special solution that will mold them to feet, insure perfect fit without fuss or bother.
7. One-piece undergarments designed to mold the body into Monroe shape sans ribbing or other uncomfortable features.
Whatever results, it’s possible that, instead of cutting dresses, Seventh Avenue will be “pouring” test-tube mixtures into dress molds.
Even beauty is in for some revolutionary improvements, says Madame Helena Rubenstein, who has revolutionized the glamour field over the years. She believes that the creams and lotions we now spread hopefully on our faces will be concentrated in liquids, pills and capsules taken orally. Permanent waves will be speeded into a matter of minutes. A remedy will be found for the male ego’s curse, baldness.
Food preparation even now gets closer and closer to the completely push-button era it will be a few years hence. Frigidaire, Whirlpool-RCA and other companies have designed kitchens that preview what’s to come.
For a meal of the future, you’ll press a selector dial that will move food from freezer to oven at a specified time and guarantee a perfectly cooked dinner at just the right hour.
There’ll be an automatic service cart to take meals from oven to table, from table to cabinet. In the future dirty dishes won’t go into sink or dishwasher but will be cleaned right on the storage racks.
Portability may even be extended to the kitchen itself. Westinghouse has designed a futuristic kitchen unit on wheels. You’ll be able to push it about, plug it in any place there’s an outlet.
Food itself won’t change radically. We’re not headed for an age of capsules and pills—and who wants it? You can’t toast the bride properly with a champagne capsule and perish the thought of putting a candle on a birthday pill. Food will stay as people like it, the way it is.
Won’t Have to Catch the Waiter’s Eye
It’s a lovely day, tomorrow. You’ll dial Paris to reserve pate de foie gras for lunch at Maxim’s—you’ll actually be able to pick out the portion you want by teleview-phone. Then, you’ll hop a plane and whiz to your luncheon rendezvous abroad. If you miss a must-see TV show, a see-hear tape will record and photograph it for play-back on your return. Of course, that push-button kitchen will have dinner ready and waiting.
It’s going to be an era of togetherness. Time-saving devices will bring mother, dad and the kids together for longer period. There’ll be no need for calm-you-down or pep-you-up pills, for “tension” will be an obsolete word.
If progress continues to jet ahead—and each coming year will turn fantasy predictions into fact—three-to-four week vacations and time to spare. What to so with it? Travel and hobbies are two answers that come to mind. As for us, there are a few books we’ve always wanted to read …
Illustrations by Bob Bugg
New York Mirror Magazine, 1947
Drawings by Michael Berry
OF ALL THE PEOPLE who make daily use of Alexander Graham Bell’s remarkable invention–the telephone–none are screwier than those who call up newspapers. Take it from a newspaper’s chief operator.
One reported her woes to the Telephone Order of Personality and Smiles (TOPS) at a meeting in Bridgeport, Conn.
Talk about foolish questions! Can you imagine asking, “What was the maiden name of Gargantua, the gorilla?” Or, “My canary just laid an egg. What do I do? Separate the parents?”
Folks frequently phone at 2 in the morning to ask where they can get married. then there are executives, who, to show they’re big shots, have four assistants call before they deign to get on the wire … and the girl whose business is so secret she won’t even tell the operator whom she wants to talk to.
Anyway, our cartoonist Michael Berry, using the same deft fingers with which he dials our number to tell us his drawings will be late, depicts some of the situations poor operators are up against.
Remind Editor’s note: Until the mid-1960s, switchboard telephone operators manually connected calls by inserting a pair of phone plugs into appropriate jacks. Eventually came operator distance customer direct dial calling. Into the 1980s, companies often used receptionists to screen and funnel incoming calls. Automatic phone systems eventually took over, forever separating callers from live bodies on the other end of the line.